We all know how critically revealing audio equipment can be. That’s part of the fascination – but it’s also most of the problem when it comes to making your system perform at it's best. If the set up of each and every component in the chain is even slightly less than optimum, then the cumulative effect on performance can be disastrous. We've come to concentrate so much on the selection of individual components that the performance of the system as a whole has been neglected to the point where we no longer understand which piece contributes what or even how to judge, assess and adjust the whole.

 

Purchasing an audio system used to be a more personal process, involving a local dealer and often a long-term relationship. Which is to my mind, they way it should be. But the Internet has brought about a sea change, not only in the way we purchase many consumer goods, but also in how we learn how to integrate them into our lives. For many items we purchase, it's an effective and convenient way to shop, delivering the lowest price and sufficient information to make the thing work the way we need it to.

 

But it does not work for audio systems.

 

It has taken me over thirty years of constant practice and accumulated experience to be able to do what I do, experience gained with a myriad of products in thousands of different rooms and systems. With the best will in the world, it’s not possible and you aren’t going to accumulate the necessary knowledge and skills, tinkering at the weekends and reading internet forums. Without an experienced and knowledgeable practitioner in your home to provide you with guidance when it comes to the assembly, positioning, and optimization of your audio system, the whole will inevitably be far less than the sum of the parts. That knowledge used to come (or should have come) from your local dealer, but the shrinking market and price pressure from the internet means those dealers that can still deliver that service are becoming an endangered species. Many buyers look to take advantage of the lower prices available online – but they also fail to recognize where those savings are made. After all, how difficult can it be to plug in a power amp? Yet, in reality, you really would be amazed…

 

When you install a new power amp you should be looking at placement, support, AC supply, grounding and polarity, choice of connections and the integrity of those connectors. You should be cleaning all of the contacts and dressing the cables. You should be attending to any variable operating parameters (switchable output modes or damping factor, input sensitivity etc). And then you should be shifting your speakers.   Yes.   Change your power amp and you change the bass characteristics, damping and extension of the system in the room – and that means shifting the speakers for optimum performance. Otherwise you won’t hear what the new amp (or the rest of the system) is capable of.

 

Suddenly, plugging in your new amp yourself doesn’t seem like quite such a bargain…

 

Allowing audio components to perform at their best, to contribute to system "whole" that is musically greater than the sum of the parts, is a painstaking, detailed, incremental process – a case of doing everything and doing it in the right order. Any missteps quickly undermine the musical integrity of the whole – yet we’ve all been guilty of making exactly the kind of “straight substitutions” I’ve referred to above, partly because nobody is discussing the issues involved and most audiophiles are unaware of them.

 

That’s where I come in…

 

You Need Both Knowledge and Experience On Your Side